Today is a happy day, and not just because my Football/Soccer Team started winning again just in time for Champions League, but also because the grip of cold that has been enveloping Europe lately let up, at least for a Saturday. So, what does a Meinos do on a rain/snow-free day like this? Stay inside and write the next article for his blog, of course! After getting rid of the hangover from yesterday's party.
Today's subject is comics, or better, the only comic series I'm following regularly, probably the most talked about series of DC's New 52: Red Hood & The Outlaws.
First, a bit of backstory, just to clarify the terminology: New 52 obviously refers to the 52 new books that DC started publishing following their universal reboot with the Flashpoint event. The birth of this series is the consequence of the growing popularity of one of DC's most controversial characters in the last years, an unexpected return that was talked about till fingerprints bled: Jason Todd, aka Robin II aka Red Hood aka Miller Batman Jump-Starter.
Jason was controversial ever since his conception: before Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was a red-headed clone of Dick Grayson, after Crisis on Infinite Earths he became a black haired street urchin who was taken in by Batman to train as Robin to not let him become another criminal. Then, those phone calls happened, the Joker's crowbar struck true and A Death in the Family became a reality, and Batman turned grim and unhealthy focused on his crusade. Jason stayed dead for years, comics-wise.
Then, something happened. The Hush arc from the Batman book, written by Jeph Loeb. It all rotated around the identity of this new supervillain mastermind, who seemed to know an awful lot about Bats, including his secret identity. In a twist, Loeb made it Jason Todd, at least for a few pages, this Jason being a transformed Clayface and the real Hush being someone else. This story was read by a certain Judd Winick. He would have preferred if Hush had really been Jason, if only for the effect it could have had on the Batman.
When Judd Winick became the writer for that same Batman book, that idea hadn't left his head yet and so, pronto, a new Red Hood was in town and Jason Todd was back in action. True, the Superboy punch was maybe... I don't know, but Winick had nonetheless hit the jackpot. Be it because people agreed with his lethal option for the Joker and similaria, be it because people liked Bats' 'greatest mistake' coming back from the dead to haunt him, be it because people said that Jason should have stayed dead, they talked about the Red Hood. The arc's and character's popularity spawned a miniseries, still penned by Winick, and the best-selling feature movie based on the original Under the Hood arc.
Though, with popularity and a following also came problems. It seemed that the only writer able to use Jason in a decent way was Judd himself, with a couple of exceptions in his cameos in Teen Titans and some parts in the Countdown book, but the true problem was that Judd had brought Jason back to be Bats' Ghost of Christmas Past and as such only seemed to work as a character when used in that fashion. It wasn't a matter of 'Which writer' any more, the real problem was that the character needed to evolve, to take the next step. Flashpoint was the perfect opportunity for DC to work on that, along with answering Jay's fans, calling themselves the Hoodies, and their request for the character's own series.
Although, that didn't mean that Jason was ready to fly solo, and that's why they gave him friends in his new series. Yes, friends, not a team. A team would have done nothing for Jason's growth. There were so many other characters in sore need of a clean up and reboot, and the choice fell upon Princess Koriand'r aka Starfire, who sorely needed a place her own in the DC universe and maybe the only character who's been treated worse than Jason if only because he didn't go into death limbo for years like the Hood: Roy Harper aka Arsenal. All were given in care not to Judd Winick, but to Scott Lobdell. Many fans, myself included, were skeptical, remembering the less than stellar results each time someone other than Judd tried to write Jason. Morrison version, anyone?
In retrospective, Scott is a heaven-sent. First of all, this is a team book, and Lobdell is one of the most successful team-books writers living (Generation X and Alpha Flight ring a bell?). Second, Judd Winick has always been adamant that in his eyes Jason was, at the end of the day, a villain and most of all, he always used it as a plot device to make Batman stories happen. Jason needed more than that. Jason needed to cut his ties with Gotham, make new ones with the rest of the world and most importantly with other 'damaged goods' like him.
Starfire is the only one of her race, a literally solar-powered alien stranded on a world possibly more alienophobe than pre-reboot Earth-616 coming from a life of torture and captivity; Arsenal is another sidekick who faced neglect, his mentor throwing him out on the streets instead of helping him upon discovering his addiction to heroin; Jason died and came back to a world and a father that had failed him, his death unavenged and his murderer free to do again and again unto others what was done unto him. These three needed to find each other. Thanks to Lobdell and ultra-talented Kenneth Rocafort, it also happened.
Red Hood and the Outlaws is establishing these three characters as their own, making them stand out as their own person and not because of who they are in relation to other people. They're growing, gaining their own detailed backstory and paths: Jason is going from ruthless crime-fighter to last surviving member of an ancient caste of assassins with a mission to protect the world from an equally ancient race of demons; Kory's mission is to just be herself, her own person, live and enjoy her life without being tied by the past, in a sense her objective is pure undiluted freedom; Roy is still a work in progress, but just the fact that he managed to kick his addiction, also thanks to the benevolence of Killer Croc of all people, speaks of strength of character.
Controversy over Starfire or not (now resolved thanks to the latest issue), Red Hood and the Outlaws is my favorite book and I can say that it will take us places! The Untitled plot is getting juicy as hell, and I also can't wait for the Court of Owls tie in. More than for the meeting between Tim Drake and Jason, mostly for the promise of a STARFIRE VS MISTER FREEZE fight!
That said, I leave you with the recommendation of checking out this series. Since the sixth issue takes place before the first one, chronologically, it's the perfect starting point for new readers. By the way, I won't be held responsible for addiction to the book.
Meinos Kaen out!
P.S.: The Red Hood & the Outlaws fans community is both on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out. Go Hoodies!